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Indirect discourse

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-X018-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 16, 2024, from

Article Summary

Indirect discourse is a mode of speech-reporting whereby a speaker conveys the content of someone’s utterance without quoting the actual words. Thus, if Pierre says, ‘Paris est belle’, an English speaker might truly say,

  • (1) Pierre said that Paris is beautiful.

In English, sentences of indirect discourse often have the form ‘A said that s’, where ‘A’ refers to a person and ‘s’ is often called the ‘content sentence’ of the report.

Sentences of indirect discourse have been classed with attributions of belief (and other psychological states) in view of an apparent conflict with the ‘principle of the intersubstitutability of coreferring terms’, which states that the truth-value of a sentence does not alter if one term in a sentence is replaced with another referring to the same thing. If (1) is true and ‘Paris’ and ‘the City of Light’ refer to the same thing, (2) may still be false:

  • (2) Pierre said that the City of Light is beautiful.

Citing this article:
Segal, Gabriel. Indirect discourse, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-X018-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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